What are the symptoms and diagnostic tests if neck pains occure?

Expert Answers
readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I can speak from experience on this one. I used to wrestle in high school and I got a perpetual pinched nerve in my neck and every so often it acts up again (more than usual). At one point it got so bad that I had to get physical therapy. The symptom, for me, was shooting pain down my arm and loss of strength in my arm. It only happened in one side. The doctor told me that it was due to a pinched nerve. After they did some traction on my neck and massage on my shoulders, I felt better. They also put my on some pain medication for a while. With additional physical therapy, I was fine (but not perfect).

giorgiana1976 | Student

Neck pain caused by injuries such as falls that have the effect of the appearance of disc hernia is usually eases in 3 months without surgery.

Neck pain caused by injuries occurres after cervical trauma caused by sudden swinging  movements, especially during car accidents and it can be of long duration, but usually eases in 6-12 months, with the remaining of an occasional recurring pain.


Characteristics of cervical pain are:

- Pain located in the area between the skull and upper part of the shoulder. The pain may radiate to the upper portion of the back or arms;

- Pain that worsens with movement;

- Limited mobility in the head and neck. Cervical region may be rigid and painful;

- Headache.This is common and may persist for months;

- Symptoms of disorders caused by compression of screw spinal nerve roots or spinal cord, among which are:

- Hypoaesthesia (numbness, sensation feeling is decreasing ), paresthesia or weakness in the arm or hand

- Burning sensation felt on touching the skin from the arm or hand

- Numbness or weakness in the foot and loss of urinary control (bladder sphincter control). It occurs when there is compression or considerable injury of bone marrow.

Other symptoms that may accompany neck pain are:

- Dizziness

- Hearing disorders

- Visual disturbances including blurred vision and fatigue of the eyes

- Impaired concentration capacity

- Irritability, fatigue and sleep disturbances.


Initial investigations

Neck pain is usually evaluated by history and physical examination. The doctor will ask questions about patient symptoms, injuries or illnesses, any previous treatments followed and  the custom activities that could lead to the appearance of cervical pain.

During physical examination, the doctor will assess neck mobility and degree of pain caused by movement. Also, will look painful areas which present changes due to nerve damage, such as hypoaesthesia, paresthesia or weakness in the arms or hands. To detect a disease or infection can be carried out blood tests.If are not present signs of an illness or a recent injury, it is possible that imaging tests such as X-ray not to be necessary, initially.

If, after a period of treatment, neck pain does not get better, you may need imaging tests, particularly in conditions where:

- Patient shows signs of nerve damage

- Other serious illness is suspected

- Neck pain is chronic (lasts more than two weeks) and does not get better with treatment

- Cause of disease can not be identified.

Imaging tests that may be used to assess cervical pain are:

- Radiography, useful to evaluate the bones and joints of the cervical level

- Magnetic resonance imaging, useful for highlighting the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots. Making nuclear magnetic resonance is advantageous to identify disc hernia or phenomenon of spinal nerve root compression

- Computed tomography for assessment of bone and spinal canal at cervical.